After a game like tonight’s, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of the expectations for the 2015-16 Leafs season.
It’s certainly easy to get worked up watching the team get dominated – in front of a hung-out-to-dry rookie goalie, no less — while the time-on-ice figures for marginal players numbers hit obscene heights. We all know the Leafs aren’t icing the best possible version of themselves, but it’s mostly for the right reasons.
Byron Froese could be off the team and Nick Spaling down on the fourth line if William Nylander was on the roster. On a team led in goals by Leo Komarov, he could well be the most dangerous offensive weapon on the team tomorrow, maybe outside of JvR in the short term. Instead, we know from the dispatch out of Sweden today – the one that revealed Nylander is likely headed to the World Juniors — that the Leafs aren’t even considering it right now.
Likewise, who wouldn’t rather watch Connor Brown play and grow instead of watching PA Parenteau on a nightly basis?
Both players did enough in camp and the AHL last year to suggest they could take shifts in the NHL right now (obviously, if Brown wasn’t hurt), but there would still be plenty of ugly games like this one tonight as those kids go through the highs and lows of development. The team would still be undermanned talent wise. And the Leafs, rightly, have no interest in a broadcast panel showing slow-motion replays of Nylander after a night like tonight, explaining incorrectly why he’s a dash-three before grilling him in the post game scrums.
It may not be fun, but hopefully it will all make sense when Nylander is a more polished version of himself next year and is clicking along in his rookie campaign; his “slumps” four or five games long instead of ten or eleven.
In the meantime, there’s no use in getting too emotionally invested in a team that’s mostly comprised of veteran stopgaps while the kids are left to slow cook in the minors and Babcock does his darnedest to bleed a stone in order to convert some of the filler into draft picks for Mark Hunter.
That said… 23 and a half minutes for Roman Polak?!
– In saying all the above, there are a few things that do seem incumbent on Babcock to mix up a little bit. One bad – and I mean really bad – game from Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf tonight isn’t enough for me to say that pairing should be kiboshed (it’s been pretty good overall), but the Rielly and Hunwick pairing has been on a steady decline – overwhelmed in the top matchups — while the Leafs’ bottom pair is a mess. Marincin obviously doesn’t have Babcock’s trust. Something has to give.
With the blueline in disarray, the Corrado question looms. Not because he’s going to come in and save the team, but he’s a 23-year-old with some upside worth exploring and so far we only know that he can capably skate the warm up and eat popcorn in the pressbox. It seems to me the Leafs should use a year like this to find out about a player like him.
– There’s also certain players on the team the Leafs may have no hope of getting anything for in terms of a trade. Polak may not fall under that category, but Martin Marincin? Byron Froese? Nick Spaling? In addition to Corrado, does it start making sense to find out if Richard Panik or Josh Leivo — in a different category than the Browns and Nylanders at age 24 and 22 respectively, and both have 16 points in 18 AHL games this year — can play in the NHL regularly? Just asking the question.
– Among the things I liked tonight: JvR’s game for the most part, who was battling, generating chances and playing a determined 200-foot game while the game was still a contest. Peter Holland again looked pretty effective on the wing at times. Bringing up a Leivo or a Panik at the expense of Froese would likely necessitate Holland shifting back to C, so there is the consideration of whether you want to mess with a good thing there.
– On the disallowed goal: Outcome of the game is probably no different, but it was a clear force in. If I had to try to rationalize the call, it’s likely that Winnik didn’t make an effort to extricate his arm quick enough from the entanglement with Hellebuyck. Still, wrong call.
– Garret Sparks’ high from Monday went crashing down back to Earth tonight in a big way, but the loss obviously wasn’t on him. I thought he had a fighting chance on one or two goals – the third especially, and he could’ve recovered quicker on the 2-0 powerplay goal from Stafford – but the silver lining is that running with Reimer is completely free of media-generated controversy now.
Even Strength Possession Chart
Shot Location Chart
Mike Babcock Post Game
Leafs Player Boxcar Stats – Jets 6 vs. Leafs 1
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